Bottle-feeding May Lead to Obesity

In recent health news, a new link has been discovered connecting certain types of infant formula with childhood obesity.  Researchers have found children who are fed with enriched formula milk are more likely to be obese by the age of five.

Specifically the researchers found a connection that suggests that weight gain during infancy is carried over into childhood.  Essentially, faster weight gain during infancy is linked to childhood obesity which the study authors noted may ultimately lead to a shorter lifespan.

Study:  Bottle-Fed Infants and Obesity:

The results of two prospective randomized trials were recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Singhal et al, 2010).  Previous research had demonstrated the connection between over nutrition in infancy and being overweight later in life, but this is the first study to demonstrate this connection in humans.

Though both studies used different means to measure fat mass, they both found that nutrient enriched formula lead to greater gains in fat mass than the control formula.  The results of these two studies found that infants who were fed enriched formula had 18-38% greater fat mass in childhood.

Not surprisingly, there’s a connection between increased fat mass in childhood and a greater risk of obesity later on in life.

Professor Atul Singhal, from the MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, was quote as saying:

It raises the issue about the best way to feed those children small for gestational age, which should now be evaluated in the light of all current evidence. In public health terms, it supports the case in the general population for breastfeeding – since it is harder to overfeed a breastfed baby. And it will undoubtedly be of interest to formula milk companies wishing to improve their products

With the escalating rates of obesity in developed nations, this research highlights the importance of targeting infancy in the war against obesity.  Not only is breastfeeding a potentially better option in the prevention of childhood obesity, but there are numerous other health benefits:

  • cost savings
  • bonding with your child
  • disease-fighting antibodies
  • perfect nutritional balance
  • lower risk of type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers in mothers who breastfeed


  • Singhal A, Kennedy K, Lanigan J, Fewtrell M, Cole TJ, Stephenson T, Elias-Jones A, Weaver LT, Ibhanesebhor S, Macdonald PD, Bindels J, Lucas A. Nutrition in infancy and long-term risk of obesity: evidence from 2 randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Sep 29.

7 thoughts on “Bottle-feeding May Lead to Obesity

  • March 3, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    This has been a known issue for several years now, as it came up in Challenging Obesity, a book produced by the Open University in 2008 (I am studying Health Sciences).

    The main reason given in my text book is that with breast feeding the baby choses when to stop, and as the mother does not know how much or how little milk the baby is drinking, they do not pressurize the baby to have more.

    However, with bottle feeding a parent will naturally want their baby to finish the bottle, and encourage the baby to drink it all. The problem is not so much that they take in more calories (although this is part of the problem of course) but that the baby does not learn when to stop, from a young age it learns to ignore the signals from the stomach (hormones released when food starts digesting) which signal when it is time to stop. This carries on into childhood, then adulthood. Basically, bottle feeding can (not always) make people less sensitive to what their body wants.

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  • October 5, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I really enjoyed your post. I nursed with my daughter. I remember reading studies about this when I pregnant. Milk, Money, and Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, were extremely informative. I still read them.

    I was able to meet the author (Dia Michels) of the book Milk, Money, and Madness an Annual Breastfeeding conference. I had a great discussion with her about breastfeeding and politics. Regarding formula, I had received a solicitation flyer months before and I stated I was not interested. However, three (free) cans of formula were arrived about a week after I have my daughter. :)

    I never used them, but did pass them on to my Aunt’s church, they supplied formula to families that were in need.

    • October 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm

      The free sample model has been widely used to encourage women to use formula. Unfortunately, it sounds like it has been quite effective too.

  • October 4, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Hey Patricia, thanks again for sharing your thoughts. When I was studying in medical school, “breast is best” was a widely discussed topic for medical students.

    I was interested myself to learn about the connection between bottle-feeding and obesity. Unfortunately, I was also made aware of the strong marketing efforts of infant formula suppliers to switch mothers over to their products.

  • October 4, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Hi Jarret
    Having been a midwife I still don’t get it when women can breastfeed and they choose not to! Especially when it has been proven time and time again that “breast is best”. Now to think it could bring on childhood obesity….what next??!!
    Great post and I love visiting and being kept up to date on the health research being done, now that I am no longer working in that field.
    Patricia Perth Australia


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